Finland and the Politics of Crises

by Suvi Alt, Iiris Jakola, Charles Brophy and Berno Odo Polzer

In the context of “Teaching the Crisis – Geographies, Methodologies, Perspectives”, Summer School, September 2-14, 2013, Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt-Universität Berlin
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Finland is among those countries whose economy is still doing relatively well and, within Europe, it remains on the side of those demanding and imposing austerity policies rather than implementing and suffering the effects of the same domestically. This as such does not mean that there is no crisis in Finland. The fact that we do not see the kind of social struggles, uprisings, and resistance emerging in Finland as we have seen around Europe, does not mean that there is no discontent whatsoever.

In the light of this, we decided to look at the perceptions of the crisis in Finland. We were particularly interested in political implications that such different ways of understanding the crisis can have. It seems to us that it is this very ambivalent nature of the crisis – and of the ways in which the idea of the crisis is used; this very mobile nature of the crisis that makes it so powerful politically.

Firstly, we discuss the conceptualisation of the crisis on the national level, especially in regards to politics of responsibility and necessity, arguing that in the predominant discourse the crisis is constructed in such way that it legitimates the furthering of the neoliberalisation of the Finnish welfare system. Secondly, we examine the local implications of the crises through fieldwork in Kemijärvi, the northernmost town in Finland, arguing that the manifestations of the crisis are not so much due to the contemporary financial crisis but rather have to do with longer-term developments in both Finnish and the global economy, and also very much the kinds of changes that have happened in the politics of the Finnish state in relation to the periphery. Thirdly, we discuss the way in which the crisis is conceptualised as an external issue involving perspectives of debt, power, and morality.


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